Maria Watches Over Us: a surprisingly beautiful anime

MWOU-3My anime preference usually tends toward the seriously dramatic, even edging into the melodramatic. Give me the desperate quest and deep losses of Fullmetal Alchemist (the first series), the tragedy of Noir, or the heart-wrenching, world-shattering action of any of the Gundam series, and I’m in my element. The more dramatic and complex the plot (as long as it makes moderate sense), the happier I am.

This is why Maria Watches Over Us (**) caught me so completely by surprise. If there’s one type of anime that doesn’t particularly move me, it’s a high school story. I generally leave those for the younger viewers, who are more content with tales about school rivalries and jealousies and how to get the attention of the new cute boy or girl in class.

But Maria Watches Over Us is, simply, a work of art. I’m still only a few episodes into the series, but by the second installment I was enthralled. The soft, rich colours befit the theme of “Roses” that underlies the story, and the design of each element of each frame is detailed and delicate. Autumn leaves float, light as snowflakes (which make their own appearance later), on an almost visible breeze, curtains billow, dresses swirl. Each face is lovely, the eyes alive, the expressions vivid, the hair flowing. And the music is equally delicate and exquisite.

MWOU-1The plots of the episodes are fairly simple, revolving around individual characters: the students at the Lillian Girls’ School learning grace, poise, and equanimity along with their academic subjects. The three girls who run the student council are given the titles of three Roses (Rosa Chinensis, Rosa Gigantea, and Rosa Foetida), and they are assisted by three younger girls they’ve chosen as their “petite soeurs,” or “little sisters.” These three are Roses “en bouton,” or “in bud,” meaning that they will eventually take the place and titles of the three Roses as the leaders of the school.

This “sister” tradition is a means for older girls in the school to partner with and mentor younger ones, and the relationship is created when the elder offers her rosary to the younger, and it is accepted.

MWOU-2The main storyline follows Yumi, who becomes the petite soeur of the elegant and aloof Lady Sachiko. She helps the older girl unbend a little and learn to enjoy her life, while Sachiko helps Yumi learn to face life with grace and calm (something she definitely has to work at). But each of the three Roses and their soeurs has special character, and we learn to care for all of them.

The lesbian subtext is strong, though never explicit. But it’s hard to miss, when the girls go on “dates,” blush at the merest glance from the object of their infatuation, and when the process of the rosary exchange itself is as solemn and meaningful as a marriage proposal. However, the purpose of this anime is not to be titilating; rather, it explores deep friendships and yes, love, and how loving relationships teach the girls strength and character.

Once in a while you find a series that has a relatively simple premise, but which is presented so beautifully that it takes on a deeper quality that lifts it out of what might be considered “sappy,” up to a level that may almost be called profound. Until now, the only anime I’d seen that had done that was Princess Tutu.

Now I can say that Maria Watches Over Us is another.

*****

(** The anime is based on a series of light novels written by Japanese author Oyuki Konno, illustrated by Reine Hibiki, published by Shueisha. The series was eventually adapted into a four-season anime by Studio Deen, and now The Right Stuff International is releasing them in North America through its production arm, Nozomi Entertainment. As far as I know, they are not being English-dubbed; the series I’m watching has English subtitles.)

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6 thoughts on “Maria Watches Over Us: a surprisingly beautiful anime

  1. Stephanie B says:

    That’s how I felt about Fruits Basket. It’s when I first really started to see anime as art and my opinion didn’t change when I read the manga. Some of the artwork is heartstopping.

    • kashicat says:

      You know, I wondered, the first time you mentioned Fruits Basket. I thought it might be that sort of thing. Which means that perhaps I should check out that anime too if I can get hold of it. 🙂

    • kashicat says:

      Isn’t it great?

      And by the way, I approved this comment because it was on topic. But I REMOVED all the links to your site, since you’ve obviously placed this comment in an attempt to sell people something.

      Not allowed, bucko. Not here. Go spam somewhere else if that’s your main purpose.

  2. Snowwhite says:

    First of all hi 2 every anime lover. About this series that is: Maria watches over us is really beautiful & lovable anime. U said very true about this I really feel the same as u do. Plz update me about this anime & more.I like the way u express. I will appreciate it.

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